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Wanted: Leaders for a TB-Free United States

On World TB Day 2018, global efforts rally to renew commitment to end deadly tuberculosis

(March 22, 2018)

It might surprise you that tuberculosis (TB)—the deadly lung disease that gained notoriety in the early 20th century—still poses a threat. Although today TB is largely controlled in the U.S., it continues to be the world's leading infectious killer.

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A major concern is untreated latent TB infection—when a person is infected with tuberculosis bacteria but is not sick (or contagious) with the active disease. In the U.S., it's estimated that up to 13 million people have latent TB infection, and without treatment, five to 10 percent of those people will develop active TB disease.

If it is not treated properly, TB can progress and even be fatal.

On World TB Day, March 24, public health groups are calling on clinicians, healthcare agencies and community organizations to lead the way in eliminating this deadly disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ending TB in the U.S. requires maintaining and strengthening current tuberculosis control priorities while increasing efforts to identify and treat of latent TB infection among high-risk populations.

About World TB Day

World TB Day commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis—a critical step toward the prevention and control of this deadly disease. It's a day to recognize achievements in TB prevention and control and to raise public awareness of the impact the disease can have on public health The U.S. theme this year is "Wanted: Leaders for a TB-Free United States. We can make history. End TB."

Our Role in Ending TB

The American Lung Association is proud to be a key player from our inception in 1904 through today in the effort to end TB.

We were founded as a voluntary health association dedicated to combatting tuberculosis. Within the first 50 years of our efforts, TB in the United States was no longer a widespread disease. Today, TB infection rates in the U.S. are the lowest recorded since national reporting began in 1953. However, the decline has slowed in recent years and the emergence of drug-resistant strains of the disease highlights the need to maintain focus on eradicating TB through surveillance, treatment and prevention.

Research is one of the key tools in keeping TB at bay, and the Lung Association has funded millions of dollars in TB research over the past decades. The researchers we fund are working on improving the diagnosis of TB in children, learning more about transmission and searching for less toxic and more effective drugs.

One of our researchers, Pamela Wearsch, Ph.D., is investigating new ways to treat TB, particularly in light of the emergence of drug-resistant TB.

"Mycobacterium tuberculosis [TB bacteria] infects immune cells in the lung called macrophages, which normally are ideal for clearing and killing pathogens. But Mycobacterium tuberculosis has figured out a way to infect this cell, and set up camp," Dr. Wearsch explains. "The bacteria have a lot of tricks that allow them to survive for decades in a person's body."

Wearsch and her team are looking at ways to identify these tricks, and to prevent transmission and improve treatment.

The Lung Association also continues to advocate for TB prevention funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and through the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as research funding at the National Institutes of Health. We also support public education activities to increase awareness and prevention of TB and to reduce the burden for patients with TB, their families and caregivers.

How You Can Help

Use your social media channels to promote TB awareness by joining the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Thunderclap and sharing the messages below.


  • Tuberculosis (TB) is far from gone. In fact, it's still a threat to public health, both here in the United States and around the world. #WorldTBDay


  • #Tuberculosis (TB) is far from gone. In fact, it's still a threat to public health, learn more: #WorldTBDay

Click to Tweet:


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